Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vanier Park Dirt Jumps

Well, the dirt jumps are finally approved. Hopefully we'll be jumping by next summer. Chris wrote up a short something for Vancouver is Awesome that summarizes it.

Getting involved with this approval process was a new one for me. There's people out there with a lot of dedication...baffling amounts of dedication. I have a lot of respect for that. I have a hard time keeping my interest level high for such a long period of time.

As well, I have a solid respect for the Park Board of this city. There were a lot of interesting questions asked and a willingness to move forward on something that I didn't think they would be up for. It gives me a bit of hope that perhaps there are politicians out there willing to listen to what people actually want. Yes. I know. It's only the Park Board. But it's a start. Incidentally, I think we're lucky to have the Park Board that we have.

So now the design and construction process begins. There's already people climbing out of the woodwork to have their input (what is Vancouver's Bicycle Advisory Committee?). And they're calling it a "Skills Park", not a "Dirt Jump Park". So hopefully we can all keep our focus on the dirt jumps and get this built right.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Worlds Coverage

It's been interesting to catch coverage of the World Championships down in Canberra, Australia. There's been a bit of bitching that the course is too pedally and not technical enough. But I think the course gives it a good "made for TV" sort of vibe to it. Charging down a steep rooty pitch looks exciting when you know how difficult it is, but is probably too slow for the average person. But everybody can understand hauling ass between giant rocks while boosting off huge jumps. I like it.

Anyhow, there's been a bit of a Steve Peat love in leading up to this years race. If you have a few minutes, please check out the Freecaster coverage (via NSMB). Watch Lopes run off the top. Steve Smith at 57:50. May as well watch Kovarik after him. Barel at looks crazy on his tiny bike with no pads at 121:50 and puts on a display of unbridled, small bike handling madness. Mick Hannah at 1:30:45.

Then Forward to Steve Peat at 1:36:49.

Honestly, the run is great, but the announcing...honestly. Greatest announcing in the history of the world, ever. I think it's Rob Warner, but I'm not 100% sure. It has to be heard to be believed. Go check it out.

You may as well hang on for Sam Hill right after. Then Greg Minnaar. Then watch Gee Atherton just for the reaction to Steve finally winning. Ooops. Spoiler.

Oh man. That's just so crazy. One of the greatest things I've ever watched. This is what is great about mountain biking.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DT Swiss EX1750 Wheelset Review - Aka The Most Expensive Wheelset I Will Ever Own

MSRP for these suckers is a jaw-dropping $1650. That's a lot of money. For anything. I'm honestly sitting here looking at that number thinking about how silly it is that these wheels are actually on my bike. It's crazy.

At the time I bought them, I didn't have too many other wheel options so I forked over (a lot less than full retail, mind you) and prayed that they lived up to their ridiculous, ridiculous price. Yes, I know. Wheels are pricey, and you could pretty easily spend this much on putting together your own custom set. But light enough to be called all-mountain and strong enough for Sam Hill to race downhill on them? Sounds good to me.

Selection and First Impressions

As I said above, I didn't have too many wholesale options when I was putting together my bike. It was either Mavic's on an XT/Formula hub or these suckers. So I ponied up and jumped in.

When they arrived I was very impressed with the initial..ummm...impression. The white sparkled. The black spokes sucked light from the air. They came with their own carrying bags for christ sakes! I was impressed.

The wheels themselves are more or less a pretty version of a 340 hub (I think) laced to an EX5.1d rim. However...handbuilt to perfect specs by DT. 32-bladed black anodized spokes. 10mm thru-axle rear hub with a DT ratchet axle. Don't fool yourself. These wheels are nicer than the sum of their parts.

Colour me extremely impressed out of the box.

Installation and Set-up

However...this didn't last long. First up I threw some new rubber onto these wheels and discovered that they're presta only. It took me a while to figure out that this is most likely for running tubeless (kit sold separately). I'm never running tubeless and presta-only rims suck so I drilled them out. I felt badly about this and it seems like a stupid thing to have to do to wheels that cost this much. I also discovered (when I was driving the wheels over my friends place to use his drill) that the bags the wheels come with barely fit wheels with tires on them. I know, they're probably made for a 700c wheel and they never thought about having to squeeze big rubber in, but they should have.

Once the tires and cassette were on it was time to go on the bike. Problem number two. The ratcheting rear axle is a beautiful item. But it's not long enough to fit in my steel dropouts. These aren't pinner little old school dropouts either. They're easily as fat as some aluminum drops out there. But I had to space it on either side with a pair of stainless washers. Not a huge deal, but once again, why is the thread length of this thing so borderline. It's sloppy and I'm not impressed.

Other than that, they're wheels. They fit on my bike and I was ready to ride.

Riding Impressions

I've been riding some heavy, heavy wheels the last few years and it's crazy what a difference a nice light set of wheels makes on a bike. Yes, I know. Light is a relative term. But I haven't run something this light in years and my bike loved me for it. I felt like I was pushing an extra gear or two up Fromme. Wonderful.

Other than that, I noticed nothing. Perhaps this is a good thing. They're plenty stiff and they do their thing. The lockring on the front hub backed off once and drove me crazy for a week as I tried to figure out why my wheel turned so slowly, but other than that, they've been relatively bombproof. I've got a season-and-a-half on them and they still spin absolutely true. Honestly, the tension in them is still perfect and I haven't touched them. And the hubs still spin like new.

However, I have to admit, I'm scared of wrecking these wheels and that results in me babying them a bit. The cost of them is just too crazy to subject them to abuse. Where am I going to find flat bladed spokes? Where am I going to find a replacement white rim? I don't steer around anything when they're on my bike and I've taken them down some pretty nasty stuff. But they come off whenever I go dirt jumping. And I wouldn't dream of shuttling them or doing anything lift-accessed. So factor another 500 bucks into your purchase price for the cheaper wheels you're going to have to buy for all the times you're afraid of wrecking these things.


Light enough to not be an excuse for anybody. Strong enough to get Sam Hill down to the bottom of a DH race run. Expensive enough that you could buy a decent bike for the same price. Beautiful. Strong. Light. Expensive. A wonderful product, but I can't imagine recommending these to anybody that would have to pay full retail.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I finished up my re-build of the road bike. In the end, I had to do a bit more than I wanted. Turns out the guy had thrown a 27" wheel on the front, so when I went to swap tires the old 700c's wouldn't fit. So I bought a nice new front wheel with a Mavic Open Pro on an XT hub. So in the end, it was:

New cables - brake and shifter
New housing
New bar tape
New brake pads
New tires
New tubes
New pedals
New seat

It's pretty damn fun to ride around on. And I'm finally learning how to handle the thing. Still, it's much more unwieldy than a mountain bike. I know from experience that 700c wheels on their own make a bike act kind of crazy. Throw in the drop bar though...I honestly can't think that the aero or hand position advantages outweigh the handling advantage you get with a flat bar. But I guess I haven't ridden the thing for more than half an hour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My new ride

I have an illness when it comes to bikes. It's never "good enough". I always seem to just slowly creep up until I've created something ridiculous.

For example. I've been trying to build a city bike for some time. I built this guy up a while back. But it was too nice to lock up. I wanted drops. And it got geared out rather quickly. So I stripped it down and sold the frame to a friend.

I decided to build a cyclocross frame. So, I started with a SOMA frame. Which became a Salsa, because they're close in price and the Salsa is so much nicer. And that needed discs.... and on and on. Pretty soon, I'd only spent $1500, but I had something that I absolutely, positively, could not lock up anywhere.

So I re-set and started searching Craigslist for old road bikes. There's a lot of crap out there. And the hipsters are creaming the city out. So I finally found this guy, and I had to have it. Yes, it's not super pretty yet. I probably could stand to have a size larger. But with some minor modifications (new pedals, tires, tubes, cables, housing, brake pads, handlebar tape, seat...that's about it) I'm going to have an almost bone stock, classic Bianchi. Call these the before pictures.

Oh. I'm going to have to completely re-learn how to ride a bike. I just rode it up the street. My quad kills (I did about 10 pedal strokes) and braking is absolutely crazy. But it should be fun.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Avid Elixir CR Review - aka Ode to the Juicy 7

On my big bike, I was using a set of first year production Juicy 7’s for the past several seasons. They were great brakes, but were feeling their age compared to the newer Juicy 7’s on my hardtail. My friend really needed some brakes, so I sold him the old Juicy 7’s and decided on a set of Avid Elixir’s for the big bike, after hearing good things. Shortly thereafter, I needed the Juicy 7’s for another project bike and decided to standardize the Elixir’s to my hardtail. So, that’s how I ended up with Avid Elixir CR’s on both of my bikes.

Selection and First Impressions

First up, I’m not super impressed with how the Elixir line of brakes is set up. You have the cheaper model with no contact adjust and an aluminum lever (Elixir R), and you have the CR with a carbon lever and the reach adjust. I think there’s some other OEM options, but these are what most of us have to choose from. I’ve never, ever craved a carbon lever, but I felt like contact adjust is a must. To me, contact adjust is what made the Juicy 7’s such a nice brake. You could just dial them in to exactly where you wanted them. Any new brake going on to my bike had to have this feature. So I bought the CR’s. For a pretty hefty premium over the base model. And they’ve already come up with an “improved” version with a magnesium lever and a shorter contact adjust barrel. It’s a real kick-in-the-balls to buy the newest of the new and have that usurped within the first month of ownership.

The brakes arrived and, I have no pictures, but the packaging was beautiful. The thing I love about Avid is that everything comes standard. Two different sets of adapters for the front, hose barbs and crush washers for setting the line size. The only thing missing is a small bottle of DOT 5 for brake bleeding.

The brakes themselves look pretty bad ass. The black is nice and the red ano goes well with other X-9 offerings. The new G-3 rotors look good. The calipers look beefy and the new pad spacer highlights a great feature of the Elixirs – top loading brake pads. This just makes so much sense. You can see how much pad you have left. You don’t have to squeeze your fingers into a ridiculous nook to grab the old pads. I haven’t swapped them out yet, but when I do…oh boy. As well, the inboard location of the banjo is nice, as it keeps the lines inboard and out of the way.

The levers I’m not totally sold on. I like that the reservoir is essentially built into the lever, but the whole thing looks a bit larger than it needs to be. I won’t go into the internals of it, as others have already done that and I don’t think it really matters to most of us, as long as they work well.

Installation, Bleeding and Set-up

The brakes installed…well, just like any other disc brake system. Once again though, all the Avid hardware is really nice. Deep torx heads on the rotor bolts. Nice hardware and adapters. It makes me happy as a mechanic to put this sort of stuff on my bikes.

Bleeding is just as simple as it has been in the past. Note that Avid has slightly changed the order of things though. Bleed the line from the caliper…squeeze the lever and bleed the caliper…then bleed the lever. Not a huge change from the old (caliper, then line, then lever) and I’m not sure why they’ve swapped this around. It’s all just as easy on the Elixirs as on the Juicy 7’s. Shortening hoses is the same process as well.

Once the brakes are on, setting them up isn’t without it’s nitpicks. First off, the reach adjust is incredibly difficult to turn. It’s probably easier to use the knob than it is to fish around in the back with a tiny allen wrench, but still, it’s tough to turn and this seems like something that could be fixed. I leave mine all the way out, so it’s not really a problem for me.

Next, the contact adjust is a nice feature and the Elixir version (in line with the brake line) is touted as an improvement, but I’ll take the spinny Juicy 7 knob any day of the week. Easier to visualize, easier to turn and no need to spin your hose around as you make an improvement.

Riding Impressions

Everything that I’ve read about the Elixir’s goes like this:

-More power than a Juicy 7

-Less power than a Code

-Great modulation

I can honestly say that I don’t really feel much of a power difference between this and a Juicy 7. If Avid says it’s there, it’s probably there. My hands still feel tired at the bottom of trails that they used to feel tired on. I don’t really feel like I can stop faster on a sniper drop line. This isn’t a bad thing, at all. I’m just saying that if you’re expecting a serious upgrade from your Juicy 7’s, don’t be surprised if you can’t feel it.

Now, the bad. Well, first up, these brakes really like to be warmed up. If you’re dropping into a trail on a wet day, oh my god…mine seem to howl like crazy for the first 15-20 seconds or so. Maybe this is to do with some sort of strange combination of my set-up…but I’ve gotten really loud noises out of both of these brakes and it seems to be attributed to being wet and cold.

Next, with brake feel…as I said above, power and modulation are both great. However, I just don’t like the feel at the lever of these brakes. Scratch that. I prefer the feel of the Juicy 7’s (with stock aluminum lever blades). I’m primarily blaming the carbon levers and I’m sure that with a set of straitlines (when they develop an Elixir lever) or even the standard aluminum levers, it would feel better. But that kind of sucks. You’re forcing people to pay a premium to buy a carbon lever if they want the contact adjust. It makes it difficult to justify spending even more money to upgrade the levers. When I hop back on a bike with Juicy 7’s, the lever just feels right. Solid. Firm. Precise. The Elixir CR is just not as nice.

Next up, the front brake on my hardtail is giving me fits. This brake is by no means seeing the kind of abuse as the brake on my big bike. It’s probably overkill on a hardtail. My problem is that I can never seem to get this brake on center. Once I do get it on center, it seems to be rubbing by the end of the ride. At first, I attributed this to air in the lines. I didn’t touch this brake out of the box, I just bolted it on and rode. After a week or two it was obvious that the brake came to me with air in the lines. If the bike got flipped upside down, it would be mushy for a few minutes and then firm up. As well, as mentioned above, it was impossible to center and would always be dragging at the bottom of a downhill (due to the air expanding, I assume). I bled the line and the problem with turning the bike upside down remains. But it still won’t remain on center. Somehow. The sucker is tight. Is this due to the really, really long bolts on a 7” adapter? I had the same set-up on my Juicy’s and it never moved. Or is it something else? I can’t figure it out and it’s really pissing me off. No problem on the other three brakes, but this one is giving me fits.


Anyhow. My verdict. Nice brakes, but if you can get Juicy 7’s for a better price (or already have them), then stick with those.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vanier Park Dirt Jump Meeting - Democracy Might Actually Work

Tonight was another meeting about the Vanier Park Dirt Jumps. Once again, things seem to be going along really well and the Park Board seems to be in favour of this going forward. There was some opposition, but more on that later.

I wasn't too clear on what was to be decided at this meeting. Once I arrived I figured out that this was to present the findings from the open house and public consultation process. Based on that feedback, a subcommittee of the park board was making the decision on whether or not to go forward. I was a few minutes late, but I arrived in the middle of Mark Vulliamy (Manager of Research and Planning) presenting his findings from the consultation. The response that he highlighted seemed overwhelmingly positive. They had every piece of communication from the public noted and every response from the open house laid out on a chart. The response at the open house was something like 82% in favour. Even most of the phone calls and e-mails that were received were positive.

Lesson #1 - The park board definitely takes note when people get in touch with them. They had noted every phone call, every e-mail and every comment from the open house. They put greater weight on communication coming from nearby residents. Every little bit helps.

Mark also went broadly over the plan and what had lead to things getting to this point. He noted that Oak Street hadn't been built by the city, but they had no problems with it (other than concerns that the trails were damaging the trees) and even the neighbours seemed to enjoy it. He also pointed out that there are some dirt jumps in the area of this proposed park and nobody has ever made much of a stink about them.

Lesson #2 - While I figured an illegally built set of dirt jumps would have been a negative against us (both in Vanier Park and at Oak Street), the city put a lot of stock in the fact that these areas existed and didn't cause any problems with the neighbours. Who knew piracy could pay off?

From there, the meeting progressed into presentations from members of the public. There was a broad selection of people in support of the park (pro riders, shop owners, dads, girls, moms, etc) and the subcommittee seemed to grasp most of the points that were being made:

1) Every other municipality in Metro Vancouver seems to have something like this except for Vancouver.

2) The kids are getting fat and they need somewhere to go.

3) Everybody on bikes gets along and there has never ever been a problem at a dirt jump park. Ever. Anywhere.

4) Don't forget about the kids. They really, really need somewhere to go.

Once the cyclists were done, the naysayers had their time at the podium. Against us was the head of the Bard on the Beach and the head of the Kits Point Residents Association. The Bard on the Beach fellow was mostly concerned with the potential for noise and pointed out that perhaps there could be a better use for this land. He seemed like a reasonable dude and I'm sure that if we sat down and talked to him - perhaps showed him a dirt jump park - his concerns would be somewhat alleviated. But maybe not.

The Kits Point Lady seems a lot less likely to be brought over to our side. Her key point seemed to be that they fought any attempts by anybody to put anything remotely close to anywhere near Kits Point. She pointed out that this spot of "unspoiled greenspace" shouldn't be handed over to a "special interests group". She also complained that they hadn't been told about this until the notice went out for the public consultation and wished that they had known earlier on. I thought this was interesting as, well, I mean, isn't that the point of public consultation?

Lesson #3 - Even if you don't think it's possible, there will always be somebody that doesn't want you to do something and doesn't really want to talk to you about it.

Once everybody spoke, the 4 counsellors on the sub-committee made some comments and everything said was overwhelmingly positive. One of the counsellors even admonished the Kits Point lady for referring to cyclists as a "special interest group" and pointed out that if you looked at the pictures and all the garbage and missing trees in the area, it was hardly an "unspoiled greenspace."

So, on we go to the next step. I'm not exactly sure what this means, but it seems that the Park Board Staff now have the go ahead to dig into the details of things and then they will present it for a vote to the Park Board in a few months.

Latest Bike and a New Dealer

Here's a shot of the latest bike that I built up. I have some decent photos of the bike so I thought I'd post them.

This bike is a little bit different and built for a lady. I put a slightly shorter travel fork on it than usual (Rock Shox Revelation) and a regular front hub up front vs. the usual 20mm. I kept the front end low with a flat bar and flipped the stem. It fits a smaller person quite well.

Also, I put a bike and a frame in at Snowcovers on 3rd Avenue and a fresh build in at North Shore Bike Shop. Go check them out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Vancouver Dirt Jump Park

It's strange to think that I woke up this morning knowing nothing about a potential dirt jump park yet I'll go to bed after witnessing unanimous Park Board support for just such an animal. I never, ever imagined that the City would do something like this. I'm excited that they're even thinking about it. Anyhow, a recap:

The meeting started at 7 and the Dirt Jump Park was pretty far down on the agenda. I was surprised that it was standing room only at the meeting, but there seemed to be a number of citizen-riling/enabling projects on the agenda.

First up was saving the hollow tree at Stanley Park. All the historical buffs were out in force and I never imagined that there would be a large group of people passionate about saving a really old tree. Their arguments made sense and everybody left happy. The hollow tree stays!

Next up was something about the semantics of changing the City Park sign by-laws. All the crazy anti-corporate environmentalists were out in force. It seemed to me the board is just trying to clean up the language of the by-laws but most people felt this was the slippery slope towards coke billboards replacing all the trees in Stanley Park and corporate naming rights for all the parks. So they postponed it and everybody left happy.

Next up was a new skateboard park in Kensington. The Community Center is using it as justification for a youth advisor/worker and a traffic barrier, but don't seem opposed to it in any other way. There were lots of skateboarders there and their voices were heard. The motion passed for a consultation into the new park and everybody left happy.

Finally was us. The Dirt Jump Park. Now, before you get too excited, the motion was just about creating a public consultation for the Dirt Jump Park, which is pretty much the first step in the process. The City guy outlined the basics of where it will be (down beneath the Burrard Street Bridge, between the bridge and the Planetarium) and some of the criteria that went into selecting the site. Then we heard from a couple of BMXers, including Jay Miron. I don't remember much of what the one guy said, but Jay was pretty interesting. He spent most of his 5 minutes talking about his past accomplishments and by the time he was done talking about those it looked like the board would have agreed to anything he said. They voted on the motion and it passed unanimously. Really. It was shocking. The appetite from the board for this sort of thing is amazing. This could be really positive for our sport. A couple of notes:

1) This seems very focussed on the BMXers to date. We, the mountain bikers, need to get a voice in their somehow.

2) Our voice shouldn't be too strong. Mountain bikers seem to screw things up and try to make everybody happy. I think if we can get a Jay Miron designed dirt jump park in the middle of Vancouver we should just let it happen. We don't need ladder bridges. We don't need skill centers. We need dirt jumps.

That's about it. Stay tuned. Get involved. This could be really cool.

And yes, everybody left happy.